LEESBURG, Fla. — Leesburg drivers are driving downtown in a more convenient way: By golf cart.
Last year, city residents asked for golf-cart access to and from downtown.
“Enough people started asking for it that our commissioners asked us to take a look at it,” said Robert Sargent, public information officer for the City of Leesburg.
Now the city is trying to install a golf-cart crossing at U.S. Highway 441 and State Road 44, also known as Dixie Avenue.
In December, city commissioners approved access to the central part of downtown. A month later, golf-cart drivers were allowed to drive around the southern portion of downtown Main Street. On Feb. 7, the northern district of Main Street opened up.
But golf-cart goers are looking for simpler paths to get around.
“That section of 441 is very highly traveled,” Sargent said.
There are between four and six lanes on the highway. The speed limit is 45 at that intersection, but golf cart drivers can only go up to 25 mph.
Within the area, U.S. 441 and Dixie Avenue cut through most of the golf-cart district.
“Having golf cart access to downtown adds an extra level of convenience for our local residents,” Sargent said.
Downtown Leesburg hosts many local events, so golf cart drivers — who must be 18 or older — want an easier way to get there.
Part of Main Street is run by Lake County, which falls inside the city’s golf cart district. About 70 signs around town designate where drivers are allowed to be, but crossing major highways is currently prohibited.
Jim Stivender Jr., the public works director for the Lake County Department of Public Works, said county commissioners want to support the city and its golf cart districts.
However, he said he has heard some complaints about golf carts getting too close to other drivers on the road.
“Mixing pick-up trucks and golf carts can be a bad situation,” he said. “So far we’ve had some issues, but most of them have been very minor.”
The city needs permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to create these crossings. The city would also like to install crossings at Dixie Avenue and Canal Street and U.S. 441 and 3rd Street.
Rick Morrow, the district traffic operations engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation, said the state can only permit golf carts on state roads and highways by request.
He said he would have to evaluate Leesburg based on different criteria — speed limits, number of highway lanes and amount of lanes on the side streets — to consider allowing highway crossings.
“The golf carts would only be crossing the road at a signalized intersection,” he said. “Whether someone crossing 441 is in a car, golf cart, bicycle or on foot, we want to make that a safe opportunity for them.”
Jayson Nobles, manager of Nobles Golf Carts, sells, repairs and services golf carts. As an owner, he prefers driving a golf cart if he can because it saves money on fuel.
Nobles said he sells about 50 to 70 golf carts a month, but it’s too soon to tell if business will improve due to future changes in the golf cart district.
“It’s quieter, easier and more fun than a car,” he said.